Concerning the Day of the Lord

359788141_1280x720I am preparing to teach the next lesson in our study of II Thessalonians. Previously, we have looked at the importance of communication from the Apostle Paul’s example in his second letter to the Thessalonian church. After that, we looked at how genuine faith endures persecution because of preaching the Gospel. This lesson deals with the coming of the Day of the Lord. This was part of the reason Paul had to write to the Thessalonians. Paul planted the church in Thessalonica when he was there with Timothy and Silas. He spent time teaching the new believers the Scriptures so that they could know God’s plan for the ages. Part of that teaching dealt with the coming of the Day of the Lord. After Paul left, he wrote his first letter to them to teach more concerning God’s plan for the ages. You can read about that in I Thessalonians. In between the first letter and the second one that he wrote to them, false teachers began to mislead people concerning God’s plan for the ages. There was a series of teachings and letters that taught that the Day of the Lord had already come and the Thessalonians had missed it. It shook the faith of some and they lost hope. They did not see a point in continuing to live out and spread the Gospel. Before Paul’s first letter, the Thessalonians were great about proclaiming the Gospel. They had filled Asia Minor with the Gospel and Paul praises them for it in his first letter. That had stopped because of the false teaching and shaken faith caused by the false teachings. This is where we pick up chapter 2 of II Thessalonians. Paul gives evidence that the Day of the Lord has not taken place yet because of some events that MUST take place first.

I. The Rapture must happen first

In verses 1 and 2, Paul reminds them that the Day of the Lord has not yet taken place.

1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,
2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

The main reason that we know that the Day of the Lord has not taken place yet is found in verse 1 and 3. There is a major event that must take place before the Day of the Lord.

3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

The gathering together of the believers to Him must take place before the Day of the Lord can happen. This is where we get the theological term “rapture” from, in verse 1. The term rapture is not used but it is described in verses 1 and 3. Rapture is from the Latin word “raptura” and in the Latin Vulgate, I Thessalonians 4:17, written by Paul to the Thessalonian church reads as follows in English.

17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

The phrase caught up is translated as rapture in the Latin Vulgate. God did not choose a specific word to reveal the idea of rapture to us. He described it in the Greek language, I think, because the meanings of words can change over time. A word picture, on the other hand, retains its original meaning even when the meaning of specific words change over time. The same principle is applied to the word “homosexual”. God does not use the word “homosexual” instead, he describes the act of a man lying with another man the way a man lies with a woman. Back to the word rapture, from the Latin raptura which means “to steal, or to carry away”. This is where we get the theological word “rapture” from and although the word “rapture” is not found in the Bible, the idea is described as “gathering” in II Thessalonians and “caught up” in I Thessalonians 4:17. Before the Day of the Lord can come, the rapture/gathering/catching up has to take place first. This is when Christ returns invisibly, not putting His feet on the earth for the second time in human history, and gathers the believers to meet Him in the air and take them into heaven. This is a different event from the “Second Coming” of Christ when He will put His feet on the earth for the second time in human history. This is also different from the Day of the Lord. Since the rapture has not yet taken place, the Day of the Lord could not have happened yet, at the time of the writing of II Thessalonians or even today. The event known as the rapture is also called the “apostasy” by Paul in verse 3 of II Thessalonians 2. There is much debate on what Paul meant by “apostasy” but I believe from the context of the chapter that Paul refers to the rapture when he mentions the apostasy. The Greek root of the word that is translated in English as “apostasy” is “Aphistemi” and it means to remove, to separate. When the rapture takes place, the believers will be separated from the rest of the world and called up to meet Christ in the sky and be taken to heaven. So, the first thing that has to happen is that the believers have to be removed from the earth before the Day of the Lord can begin.

II. The man of lawlessness must reveal himself to the world

The second event that must take place before the Day of the Lord can begin is that the man of lawlessness must reveal himself to the world for who he really is. He is described by Paul in the following verses:

3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

First of all, he is a lawless man, a synonym for a man of sin. He disregards the ways of God. He will bring about great destruction on the earth and specifically to the Jewish people. This man will set himself up to be god and demand worship. The temple of the Jews will be rebuilt and he will claim to be god and demand to be worshiped by the Jews in the Jewish Temple. This man is described by Daniel and by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation. So, the rapture has to take place, then the man of lawlessness has to reveal himself, and then the Day of the Lord can come. These two events have yet to happen in human history so the Day of the Lord was future for the Thessalonians and it is future for us as well. There is one more thing to add to the picture.

6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

The man of lawlessness would like to reveal himself but he is not able to do so at the moment because he is being restrained by the presence of the church on the earth. One day, the rapture will take place and the church will no longer be on the earth to restrain the man of lawlessness. Until that even, the man of lawlessness cannot reveal himself and the Day of the Lord cannot come. This reveals the power of God in the lives of the believers on the earth. Did you realize that as a follower of Christ, the power of God is working in you and through you in such a mighty way? Some people today would like for us to think that the church is weak and impotent but, according to this text, the church is powerful and will be until it is removed from the earth. After the church is removed, the man of lawlessness will reveal himself and the Day of the Lord will begin. The word “day” would be better translated as “time period” of the Lord because it is not a literal day. Joel teaches about the “day” in the second chapter of his book.

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of the LORD is coming; Surely it is near,
2 A day of darkness and gloom, A day of clouds and thick darkness. As the dawn is spread over the mountains, So there is a great and mighty people; There has never been anything like it, Nor will there be again after it To the years of many generations. (Joel 2)

Jesus also spoke of this “day” and makes reference to Daniel’s teaching on what begins the Day of the Lord.

15 “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand ),
16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.
17 “Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things out that are in his house.
18 “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.
19 “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
20 “But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.
21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. (Matthew 24)

Joel and Jesus are teaching about the same “period” in human history, known as the Day of the Lord. The abomination of desolation marks the beginning of this time period.

27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

31 “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation. (Daniel 9 and Daniel 11)

III. The Second Coming of Christ

The second coming of Christ is unique from the rapture and the Day of the Lord. It marks the second time in human history when Jesus Christ will place His feet on the earth. The first time He came to the earth, His first advent, He came to offer peace to all mankind by going to the cross and paying the price for mankind’s sin. He rose from the dead to break sin’s power over people. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey signifying that He comes in peace to offer peace. His second coming is much different. Paul describes the event in II Thessalonians chapter 2.

8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;
9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,
10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

This event is described in detail in Revelation 19.

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

This time, Jesus rides in on a White horse signifying the fact that He is coming to make war. The destroys the man of lawlessness and the people who follow him into battle. So, in this passage from II Thessalonians, Paul reminds the Thessalonians of what he has already taught them. There are 4 events that mark the end of time.

  1. The rapture of the church
  2. The lawless man reveals himself
  3. The Day of the Lord begins
  4. Christ returns to the earth for the second time in human history.

The Thessalonians did not miss the boat. The rapture had yet to occur and the lawless man could not have revealed himself. The Day of the Lord had not yet begun. Therefore, Paul offers hope and encouragement to the Thessalonian believers. First, he wants them to remember their calling.

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.
14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, Paul challenges them to persevere and continue serving the Lord.

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

They need to stand firm in the sound teaching that they had already received from the Word of God and they needed to continue sharing the message with others just as they were busy doing before the false teaching got them sidetracked. Are you standing firm in the Word of God so that you will not be deceived? Are you busily sharing God’s plan for the ages with the people around you? May the Lord help us know His plan and His will so that we can live it out and share it with others until the rapture takes place!

5 comments on “Concerning the Day of the Lord

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